After a few days, the move felt "like a slap, like the world was telling us, 'You're not important enough.' "
The Colts leave Baltimore
Photos: Colts leave Baltimore
Browse photos of the Colts leaving Baltimore for Indianapolis in the middle of the night on March 29, 1984.
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"While the rest of the town pulled out its hair and vilified Irsay, Schaefer was acting," Peter Richmond wrote in Ballpark , his book about the building of Camden Yards. "He saw, finally, a chance to get Williams his new stadium by appealing to the panicked climate in the city -- and with it, an opportunity to finally get Williams' signature on a long-term lease."
In 1985, Schaefer created a task force to study possible renovations at Memorial Stadium. A report from the architectural firm HOK concluded such renovations would be prohibitively expensive but listed Camden Yards as one of three ideal sites for a new baseball stadium. That idea had bobbed around since the 1960s, but the Colts' departure added urgency to the discussion.
"Without Irsay pulling the plug and leaving behind so much bitterness, I'm not sure it would have happened," Riley says of Camden Yards. "We weren't going to let the same thing happen again. Some of the public maybe didn't like it, but they understood."
Herbert Belgrad, who as the first chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority led the quest for Camden Yards, says agony over the Colts was the undercurrent to every meeting and conversation he had. Williams didn't have to threaten a move; the fear was already in every heart and mind.
"There's no question that the shock waves caused people to think about what we did wrong and about how to keep the Orioles from being on the next Mayflower," Belgrad says.
The Colts' gripes about sharing Memorial Stadium pushed Belgrad away from a multipurpose facility and toward the two-stadium concept. Camden Yards would never have become a trendsetter without that philosophical switch, he says.
The baseball park had long since emerged as an architectural and financial success when Moag took over the Stadium Authority in 1995 under a mandate to bring the NFL back. He began the job carrying the same bitterness as many Baltimoreans. But as Schaefer had with the baseball stadium, Moag saw opportunity in the wounds left by Irsay and by two failed expansion bids.
"We had a huge communal chip on our shoulder and a widespread cynicism and distrust regarding anything NFL," Moag says. "The benefit of that psychology was that I didn't have a lot of reporters and people from the community crawling all over me while I looked for a team. It allowed me to do the job quietly."
Moag had the deal with Art Modell essentially completed by the time the public got wind of it. Though some Baltimoreans expressed discomfort at doing to Cleveland what had been done to them, affection for the Ravens grew rapidly. Modell put down roots in the community, the team won a Super Bowl in its fifth season and, essentially, everyone has lived happily ever after.
"For those us who survived it, life is roses," Hutchinson says. "Everything we have today is better. I don't even think of the Colts anymore."
Except when the Indianapolis version comes to town, that is. When the Colts arrived for a divisional playoff game in 2007, Ravens fans unleashed an unprecedented level of vitriol. Many had not let go.
As clearly as policymakers see the benefits that flowed from Irsay's move, some can't keep the old anger from bubbling up.
"It still galls the hell out of me," Riley says. "Especially the fact that he took the name with him. I mean, I respect Peyton Manning's skills and the deference he has always given to Unitas. But I can't root for him. I can't possibly root for them. I don't care who they're playing."
Baltimore Sun reporters Ken Murray and Kevin Van Valkenburg contributed to this article
More on the moveDavid Steele: Hey, Baltimore, Jim Irsay's not the villain. And, Cleveland, leave Art Modell alone. PG 6
@baltimoresun.com: Go to /colts for a poll, a timeline, reader reminiscences and photos.
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